The raising of Lazarus lies at the heart of John’s Gospel. Resurrection
is the greatest of the seven signs. Jesus speaks
enigmatically about Lazarus’ illness: “This illness does not lead
to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may
be glorified through it.” Jesus will manifest glory as the communion
of present life between believers and God. This sign will
glorify Jesus because it will lead to Jesus’ death, a stage on the
way to glorification. So the Gospel challenges readers to deeper
insight. Death is not final.
Jesus intentionally delays his departure for Bethany, heightening
the tension of the scene. Lazarus will have been buried for
four days when Jesus finally arrives. But hearers need to see in
Jesus’ absence the symbolic indwelling of Jesus with the disciples.
Martha greets Jesus in terrible grief. Yet she speaks of personal
transformation: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother
would not have died. But even now I know that God will give
you whatever you ask.”
Their dialogue contains ironic misunderstanding. Noting
that Lazarus “will rise,” Martha affirms contemporaneous Jewish
belief in general resurrection “on the last day.” Jesus replaces
an established religious belief with self-declaration: “I am the
resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though
they die, will live.” Then Jesus asks Martha (and the reader):
“Do you believe this?” She affirms, “Yes, Lord, I believe that
you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the
world.” She understands that eternal life conquers death without
In Lazarus’s resurrection, readers attempt to see with Martha
that death is not final. Jesus has given life as the ultimate
sign of the power that gives eternal life on earth, promising that
on the last day the dead will be raised.
God, open our eyes to see your glory in the world. Amen.
Ezekiel 37 presents a vision of the dry bones that represent the people of Israel after the Babylonian invasion—the people have no life. God calls Ezekiel to see the devastation and to prophesy to the dry bones with the message that they shall live. The psalmist cries out from the very depths expressing both a need and hunger for God and a trust in God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. The story of Lazarus’s death and Jesus’ raising him to life calls forth our own stories and experiences of life and death. It draws us in to a conversation that goes deeper than our intellect. It evokes our questions, our fears, our doubts, and our faith. The Romans text offers the good news that the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us. Each of these texts affirms life after death. Death is not the end; death does not have the nal word.
• Read Ezekiel 37:1-14. How has life come to you through death?
• Read Psalm 130. For what do you cry out to God? Pray the psalm, line by line, knowing that God hears and extends mercy and care.
• Read Romans 8:6-11. How has God changed your mind-set, your attitude, to bring you richer life?
• Read John 11:1-45. What in your world needs to die in order for life to come forth?
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